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November 19, 2003 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-11-19

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, November 19, 2003


: So~vei

R& dm


SINCE 1890

Editor in Chief
Editorial Page Editors

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of
the Daily's editorial board. All other articles, letters and cartoons do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

I actually think
that Bush is the
greatest threat to life
on this planet that
we've most probably
ever seen"
- London Mayor Ken Livingstone, as
quoted yesterday in The Independent.

°_ S~o
I p\

I ve
for' v~o






To have and have not


ith differing lev-
els of candor,
schmaltz and
frivolity there is currently a
fixation on the analysis and
deconstruction of the
wealthy. Dispersed mainly
between three shows, with
more surely to follow, the
public eye is on the wealthy
like never before.
What is being eschewed here is the princi-
ple of the old money traditionally remaining
anonymous. How many people from the Forbes
400 list can be named by picture? This all
comes at an interesting time when the Ameri-
can median salary continues to decrease as does
the number of Americans living below an anti-
quated poverty line.
The first is MTV's superbly vapid show
"Rich Girls" which is an empty dance
through two young trust fund babies lives as
they espouse such philosophies as "I think
clothes should be free, because they are like a
basic necessity, like water." Water is not free,
sweetie. While showing the undeniable privi-
lege of such a life, the stupidity that seems to
come with it cannot be ignored.
The upcoming Fox show "The Simple Life"
focuses on the eternally understated Paris Hilton
of Hilton Hotel fame and Nicole Richie, daugh-
ter of Lionel Richie, who are lessened to the
point of living in Westbubblefuck, Ark., a far
cry from Chelsea's chic Lot 61. The lesson here
is how all that naughty money disconnected
them from basic intelligence and the knowledge

of the simple life.
Then there is "Born Rich," an HBO doc-
umentary by fellow rich boy Jamie Johnson,
heir to the Johnson and Johnson fortune,
who decided to break tradition and examine
what he calls the "voodoo of inherited
wealth." This phenomena is what he
describes as the inability of those with
money to openly complain of the problems
their status causes. His show is the most
candid of all, as he and his fellow jet-set
crew share their fears of family severance
and marital pressures in social scenes that
don't look all that removed from many here
at this school. While his purpose could be
opening the door for upper-class catharsis, it
sure is pretty sexy to say you are a docu-
mentarian. It gives you that artsy spin.
The most important question to be asked
is why. Why is the status and invulnerability
of this lifestyle being challenged? A lot of
these kids want to combine entertainment
fame with their wealth - Ally Hilfiger and
Jaime Gleicher are each listed as producers
of their show "Rich Girls." Paris Hilton's ini-
tial forays into acting have only resulted with
her portrayal as a burgeoning porn star.
Nicole Richie's description as an "aspiring
actress, singer and dancer," is marred by her
accomplished heroin addiction.
This marks an ostensible change in the
American perception of true wealth and celebri-
ty where pandering for publicity and appear-
ances on "Fear Factor" or "Leno" are generally
frowned upon because their wealth is prided on
its self-generating nature.

These shows seem to be a combination of
teasing taunting and condemnation, but when
closely examined the "cwho" becomes murkier.
There is a degree of moralizing involved to
mitigate the hatred the peons have for the
haves. The parable of "The rich are bad and
stupid," is followed by the "Gee, oh boy I'm
glad I don't have money." The growing class
disparity and disappearance of social mobiliza-
tion are good enough reasons to phase out the
glory of money.
In no way is this a socialist diatribe because
I sure as hell don't want to work much past the
age of 25 and have no desire to share farm
plots with my fellow comrades. Rather it is an
observation of the fortuitous timing between
the increase of the poor and the demystification
of the rich.
"This contempt of money is just another
trick by the rich to keep the poor without,"
said Michael Corleone, and it never rings
more true than today. Maybe the doctrine of
old money is no longer valid as our genera-
tion can no longer be content with the silent
affluence of the previous centuries. With the
glamour and lure of the red carpet from
MTV award shows and repeats of "Cribs"
the baby bluebloods are taking a page from
the nouveau riche and the poor and combin-
ing shameless self-promotion with the cool-
ness of being oppressed. Pity them, it's hard
to be rich.
Rahim can be reached at
hrahim@umich. edu.

Atheists have feelings, too

fter watching Pat
Robertson inter-
view ousted
Alabama Chief Justice
Roy Moore on "The 700
d Club" last week, I was all
r set to write a scathing
piece on the presence of
religion in government
that encompassed my pro-
found hatred of people like Robertson,
Moore and the moral watchdogs of the reli-
gious right and the threats they posed to our
civil liberties. It was going to be bitter and
sarcastic and no doubt would have contained
several unnecessary jabs at Christianity itself.
I tried to make it work, but I just couldn't
do it. I've honestly grown tired of attacking the
beliefs of others like that. It's a sad thing to do.
I don't really hate Christians (my parents are
both Christian, and they're my favorite people
in the world). Christianity brings people happi-
ness and peace of mind, and even if it does
give people crazy and annoying ideas such as
placing 5,000-pound slabs with the Ten Com-
mandments etched into them in public court-
houses, it's not such a bad thing.
Long story short, my lingering issues with
Christianity have been settled. Therefore, I
decided to use this space more constructively
for once. I thought, why not discuss my own
beliefs and hopefully clear up some common
misconceptions about them instead of criti-
cizing the beliefs of others? I'll bare my soul

for all to judge. With all the criticizing I've
done in the past, it's only fair.
So here goes:
In truth, I have no religious beliefs. I was
raised in a nondenominational Christian
megachurch, and I clung to those beliefs until
two years ago. I had an epiphany, a wonder-
ful moment of clarity when the mysteries of
the universe instantly unfolded right before
my eyes. Well, maybe not, but it created
those wonderful feelings that only hyperbole
can properly capture. I questioned the foun-
dation of everything I believed in - God,
Jesus and the rest. To be brief, the religion no
longer made sense in the context of the real
world. It all sounded so great in theory, but in
reality I couldn't accept it. And so I gave up
religion cold turkey.
If I need a label, I guess you could call
me an atheist. It's not a term I usually like
to use - not because it's an untrue label,
but because the word has such a negative
connotation in our culture. When the aver-
age person hears the word "atheist" he or
she usually thinks of one of two types of
people: the hedonistic heathen who
indulges in all types of debauchery, or the
pretentious asshole who jumps at each
opportunity to mock religion in its every
form. But I've never been one to indulge in
excess, and while I may take on the preten-
tious asshole role from time to time, I try
to be respectful of others' beliefs.
Some of the most common questions an

atheist faces go something like this: "If you
don't believe in a supreme being or an after-
life, then why do you bother living? Why
don't you go on a week-long bender of
armed robbery, murder, promiscuous sex and
drug use and then commit suicide?" For me,
it's quite simple: I bother living because I
enjoy life. That, and I have nothing better to
do than live.
Part of the blame for the misconcep-
tions surrounding atheism lies with groups
such as the American atheists. It's one
thing for people with a common belief to
band together, but when that common
belief is actually a lack of belief, it
becomes kind of ridiculous. For atheists to
take on an agenda (literally promoting
nothing) is quite unnecessary and counter-
productive. These militant atheists are
every bit as annoying as the religious right
and twice as crazy. They're the ones who
make the public think all atheists hate reli-
gion and the religious. The only reason
they don't pose a legitimate threat to the
nation is that there are so few of them.
But the majority of us aren't crazy. In
fact, we're very sane and rational people.
We think, act and feel just like you. Don't
be afraid of us. We like you, and you
might just like us.
Go in peace.
Hoard can be reached at



By now I am sure that you have heard or
seen the phrase "wherever we stand, we stand
with Israel," on T-shirts and posters, and in arti-
cles and campaigns internationally. It seems to
have existed always, but I was at the meeting
where it was coined - not by a large institution
or professional pundit - but by a few of your
fellow students. Today, thousands of students
on campus wear this message, so allow me to
elucidate first-hand the intent behind the slogan;
an acknowledgement of diversity and complexi-
ty, a tool towards dialogue, and a show of sup-
port for certain ideals.
Flashing back to that influential meeting:
There were about eight of us, as politically

improve, for its unique character and flavor.
We nodded in a rare moment of agreement,
and so the slogan was born.
One would be hard-pressed to find a stu-
dent wearing a shirt that says "I stand by
Israel no matter what it does," or "I support
100 percent of the actions that the govern-
ment takes;" few Americans would say that
about America, why should Israel be any
different? If you find such a person, won-
derful, they contribute to the color wheel of
opinions which the shirt brings together.
Just last night I heard an Israeli friend pas-
sionately oppose many aspects of the gov-
ernment; he is proud to wear his shirt, he
said, because his vote and progressive rally-
ing against certain policies is his way of
standing with Israel.
The mtnv ; iguinnc wxhichh hben

fortable with the display. They did not do an
about-face and buy a shirt to wear today, nor
did I lose my perspective, but we gained an
understanding of each other, a paradigm of
real dialogue. Our hope with the shirts and
slogan is that those students united by the
greater message feel free to duke out the
details. Those in opposition to the sentiment
come out and say so, paving the court for a
give and take.
A nod to the diversity of the pro-Israel
community, an awl for opening discussion,
an expression of the complexity involved in
supporting any ideal, person, or country,
these are what the shirts are meant to show.
We encourage you to engage the slogan, ask
your friends, what is it about Israel that they
are supporting and where do they differ? It
could he a nua~nced answer 2about ayove-


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